For those of us who struggle with an incarcerated loved one or someone whose choices make us hope that incarceration is the worst we will be dealing with, there are shadows. It may be an empty chair at the table or worry that the challenges of one beloved one will spill over into disruption and pain for other beloved family members and for ourselves. And always there are questions: "What could we have done differently?" and "How do I help now?" and "How do I quit making it worse without meaning to?" For families where this has become an all too frequent issue the even more urgent questions is: "How do I keep this from pouring into yet another generation?"
So today's devotion really was a poke in the ribs. The Bible reading from 1 Chronicles 7 is full of "begats" and fathers and sons and daughters names and their offspring and the family story stating: "and they were might men of valor in their generations." Frankly I was kind of thinking "yeah, yeah, other than a list of potential baby names this is not so interesting." Then I got to verse 20 which tells of sons gone wrong and the consequences of that which included their deaths. Then verse 22 speaks of their father Ephraim who "mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him." He eventually had another son, but even at the rejoicing of a new life the father spoke of the "tragedy (that had) come upon his house".
The story of the criminal behavior sounded like the drone of the evening news as assaults, robberies, thefts, home invasions and violent death make victims of us all: potential is misspent, innocents pay with their hope, confidence, even their lives and it is hard to figure out whether the families of the "victim" or "perpetrator" are bleeding more profusely, aching more deeply, grieving more passionately. I'm pretty sure who is dealing with more shame, and who is more likely to get casseroles from their church friends. Both houses will have an empty chair at their table, a sense of loss of a better "might have been", questions, mourning, a new reality, the need to rebuild expectations for their tomorrows.
But somehow I find Ephraim's story comforting: it speaks to the thoughts that had been pecking at my brain as I have been anticipating all the family joys and excitement. You see, Ephraim (this father of fallen sons) both went on with life yet also remembered his lost children, and I am thinking probably looked at his new born son and prayed God would give him more wisdom, better parenting skills, courage to live boldly with enough heart and hope that his new child would be spared the pain of rebelling against God, against family values earnestly taught, instead becoming a mighty man of valor in his generation.
So I will embrace each moment with family, trust God more wholly, listen with less judgment and more love, pray A BUNCH, walk humbly seeking to be a woman of valor in my generation. I believe that is the best gift I can give to my grandchildren and their grand children.
Oxford Dictionary: VALOR, noun, Great courage in the face of danger, see also brave, fearless, dauntless; having pluck, nerve, backbone, spine, spirit, fortitude, mettle, hardihood, spunk; being heroic, stouthearted, audacious, bold, gallant, daring,